Sunday, January 7, 2018

Angels on the Highway

You never know when you will find or encounter an angel.  Today I met two!

Today, we were on our way to the funeral of my Uncle Bubba, up in the Delta, in the sleepy little town of Inverness, MS.  The family was gathered at Cousin Will's house for a meal prior to the visitation and funeral at the Baptist Church.  We were running late, and I didn't want to be a bother at Wills so I decided to venture on to Indianola for a quick bite.

I knew a finger or two would be shaken at me for not coming by.  In small towns like Inverness, you never go hungry, especially during a funeral. Feelings get hurt if you don't come by, even if its for a slice of pie or a cup of coffee.

With time to get a quick bite, and make it back for the visitation, we approached the intersection of hwy 49 and 82.  Suddenly i had a sneezing attack as i was pulling up to the stop sign, and the next thing you know, pop!, I had hit the curb and blown out the front left tire!

Well crap!  So much for making it to the funeral service! I slowly made my way into the parking lot of the old Webers truck stop.  Boy, the memories that flashed through my head from my youth!

We were in the spousal unit's Acura.  These days they do not put spare tires in the trunk, you just get a tire inflation kit.  Those damn Japanese!  Time to dial 1-800 Acura roadside assistance, and the two hour wait for a tow truck and ride back to Brandon. :-(

I made several calls and a text message to see about getting the spousal unit to the funeral service while I saw about the car, but no luck.

Just then i had my first encounter with a highway angel!  A black guy was in the parking lot working on an 18 wheeler.  He walks up and asks me if he can help me with my flat.  Bless him!  I went through my issues with Acura's and the lack of a spare in the MDX.  He then proceeds to tell me, "well, I have a friend that does tire repairs on trucks."  Now, keep in mind, this is Sunday, 1:00,  in the Mississippi Delta, what's my luck in finding a 19 inch Japanese specialty tire???

Well, son of a gun!   The tire repair guy answered the call, and he just passed the only tire store open on Sunday in Indianola. He makes a u-turn, gets the specs for the tire from us, and low and behold, they have one used tire, $40, cash.  Sold!

The tire repair guy, Chris Barnes, arrives, picks me up, and we are off to get that tire!  I have just met my second highway angel of the day!
Yep!  They had the used tire, including a hand full of leaves in the bottom to go with it.  Back to Webers truck stop parking lot we go!

We get back to the car, and highway angel #1 and the truck he was working on, are gone.  I look at the rim and notice the need for a specialty socket for the locked lug nut.  Ok God, you have had my six so far.....  yep, the lug socket was in the back!  My new friend Chris worked his magic, and Presto!  Used spare 19 inch tire is on the ground!  I asked him how much I owed him.  He says, "what ever you want to pay."  Did i mention this is the Mississipi Delta?  I gave him all I had, $55, and offered to meet at an ATM for more.  His response, just drive safe my friend.

Would you believe we made it to the funeral service with five minutes to spare.  God was in that santuary, but he had his highway angels working overtime, on a Sunday, in the Delta!  God's country, yes indeed!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Turkey is a Turkey is a Turkey

Gone are the days of the oven roasted, dried out turkey.  These days, rarely do you see such a bird on Facebook.

Years ago, my Dad rediscovered the kitchen.  His favorite chef was Louisiana's Justin Wilson.  Justin had a TV show that featured his cooking inside the kitchen and also outdoors.  One of the featured outdoor recipes was for deep fried turkey.  After watching that episode, dear ole Dad was hooked for life.

Boss Weems' fried turkeys became legend in Inverness long before the popularity spread. It wasn't long before there was a list of others one of his birds.    After a few years, this had become a major undertaking, and he eventually cut the cooking down to just a bird or two.  By then, everybody was trying their hand at turkey frying!

One must be committed to this endeavor, as one needs to overcome the costs:  propane tank and burner, pot with a basket, temperature gauge, and three to five gallons of peanut oil. And, peanut oil is not cheap, but it has a much higher burn temperature.  Rookies have to figure out how much oil to put in the pot to prevent boil overs, must be patient in getting the bird to the right internal temperature, and not burn themselves in the process!

I took my turn over the years frying turkeys, bur decided to go a different route.  I started smoking my bird, covered in Tony C's cajun seasoning.  The salt end ups sealing the skin of the bird, and the meal is as moist and delicious as fried.  And the skin is the favorite part.  No need for 3-5 gallons of peanut oil, just a $2 container of seasoning and a few hours on the smoker, without the smoke!

With our investment in a condo in that Town Up North (Oxford), I had to find an alternative to cooking with charcoal or propane.  I found an inexpensive electric smoker that fit the bill.  The best part, it heats up to a constant 200-225 degree temperature and never runs out of fuel!  Pork butts, ribs, chicken wings and briskets come off mighty tasty!


Smoked 10-12 lb turkey

smoker pork butts
This year, our boys are meeting us in Oxford for Christmas. With the need for more than on 10-12 pound turkey, I needed to add some speed to the cooking process.  As luck would have it, I found a Masterbuilt Butterball turkey fryer on Samsclubauction.com, one of my favorite auction sites.  After a little research, I bit the bullet and bought one.

The best part about this cooker is that it fries, boils and steams.  The unit is considered an indoor model because of the short electrical cord.  For frying, you add 3 gallons of peanut oil, plug it up, wait for the grease to get to temperature, then fry away!  According to the instructions, anyway....   Funny of the day:  me, never to be one that likes reading instructions, took the plunge and read them from cover to cover.  After all the unpacking, and hooking up, I'll be dadgummed flabbergasted if I could figure out how to "make it Heat up"!  I finally went to Utube, and on the 5th video, BAM!  I saw the Dude hit the right combination of buttons.  We now have heat! 



Fried 10-12 lb turkey
The heating element is inside the tank, and it takes it about 45 minutes to bring the peanut oil up to temperature. A basket and lift handle come with it to help remove the done bird.  The cooker has a preset temperature of 375 degrees so that you won't burn the oil.  The electic cord is magnetic and short, for safety as well.  Cleaning up is a snap, with the built in drain plug.  I started with three gallons of oil, and all but three cups of oil went back into the jugs, and fairly clean.  The pot comes out and cleand up with a soapy sponge.

Overall, I was very pleased with this Masterbuilt Butterball turkey fryer.  I can't wait to use it to fry fish, shrimp, etc... and use it as a crap steamer and shrimp boil pot at the Condo in that Town Up North!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Another Season in the Grove

Another season spent in the Grove in that town up north has come and gone.  Its time to pack up all the gear and store it away for next year.  The winter, spring and summer will be spent buying something new for the group, cataloging new recipes, and adding new members to the group for next year's season of tailgating.

By now, everybody has acquired "the wagon" that has a mind of its own,  It is an art to pull that thang without it climbing up you heel or running over somebody else.  Its amazing how much stuff you can pile on one of these, especially when you have a bungee cord or two!

My biggest score this year was a bar height 10ft table that you secure to the tent legs, and but the food tables up next to it.  I knew it was a score when several tent neighbors came and asked, "hey! where can I get me one of those???"  Its an Ozark brand from Walmart.com.

After "the big storm" at yesterday's game, there will be a lot of new tents for 2018.  We had four tents bungee corded together and had people manning all the poles.  Several gusts of wind had the food tables rise up off the ground almost a foot!  We had side walls up to protect the ladies and their hair from the rain.  You had to be ready for the downpours coming between the tents, or you would be soaking wet!

We are lucky with our tent spot, being across the street from the grove.  The "inner circle" of the Grove does not allow any type of gas or charcoal cooking.  We are lucky to have Chef Kyle and his gas powered Weber Q.  Grilled sausage is an every game occurrence, along with grilled quail.  Skewered shrimp have become our new favorite treat!

On our corner of the Grove, we continue to be entertained by the Ole Miss fans who forget the "beer rule", no exposed packages of six packs, twelve packs, or cases please.  Bush Natural Light seemed to be the most common beverage that was sacrificed this year.  Who actually drinks that stuff????  Starving, budget minded, college kids, I guess....

The clothing choices leave nothing for the imagination.  I call them the micro-mini skirts.  Why would you want your cheek lines exposed for all to see.  I just knew the winds of yesterday were going to invert some of those skirts like an umbrella, poof! But no such luck :-(  .  Velcro or duck tape must be involved!

As we were leaving for the last time, all our Popo buddies wished us well, and can't wait to see you next year!  These are great people, that watch your stuff while you are at the game.  And cleanup is a breeze, since all your leftover food has been consumed by said Popo!

We'll give it a couple of months, and planning will begin again for 2018.  We might be on the lookout for some younger folks to join us.  Great spot, great crew, and memories to be made!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Farmer's Table in Livingston

Well, birthday 61 was rolling around, and I new exactly what I wanted to do., the cooking school at Farmer's Table in Livingston, hosted by Chef Conner Wolf. I've been following my little buddy Connor Wolf for years.  I go way back with this kid, to the days with his Dad Tommy, on the soccer fields of Rankin County.  Conner has been cooking ever since he was tall enough to reach a skillet on the back eye of the stove.  I've been tempted to run over to his Momma Patty's house to get the last bite of his latest creations posted to FB, but I knew I'd be too late to even lick the plate!
Chef Conner Wolf


Lately I've been celebrating more than just the day of my birth, more like the week of my coming out party!  I went to the Farmer's Table web site and checked the menus for the week.  Turns out, my special day was lobster roll day.  Lobster in Mississippi????  Well, da boy is a chef, and he has been to one of them fancy cooking schools in Miami, and he's been sou cheffing at Walkers and Local 463 for several years, so he must know a thang or two, or three???!!!  The menu consisted of :  Fall Lettuce Salad, Old Bay Potato Chips and Smoked Comeback, Slow Butter Poached Lobster Rolls, and Almond Cookie with Lemon Ice Cream. Tickets were purchased and the calendar was set for 6:30 on Thursday.
Me and Chef Conner


Farmer's Table is located at the end of highway 463 out from Madison.  Several businesses have made a home there, and quite a few events are planned there throughout the year.  There was not a lot of car traffic, being this was a Thursday night.

As we entered the school, we were greeted by the smell of oil at 325 degrees, with thinly sliced pieces potato coming out pot!  Chef Conner was making us his version of potato chips, as an appetizer and also a side to the lobster rolls.  He had also whipped up a smoked comeback sauce for dipping. Two ladies joined our motley crew, time to get this thing started! This cooking school is gonna be a breeze!

Chef started us off with baking Almond cookies.  Being a cookie baker this was awesome, starting it off with dessert!  This recipe didn't call for any flour, using almond paste and powdered sugar and a few other ingredients to pull it together.  Chef Conner put us right to work, zesting a lemon, chopping almonds, and measuring out powdered sugar in a cup without measurement markings!  After a few pluses of the food processor, they were ready for the oven!
I got to pulse!

Chef Conner has the cleanest hands!


The salad wasn't your typical romaine or iceberg.  We had hand picked fall greens of a variety of plants I've never heard of.  We were put to work prepping the onion, peeling and slicing pears, chopping garlic, and crumbling up some bleu cheese.  I guess us beginners have to start somewhere, chop! chop!  The dressing was a balsamic sherry vinaigrette, held together by a touch of Dijon mustard!  It works! That salad dressing never separated!

Fall greens with pears and candied pecans

While we were seated, enjoying our professionally plated salad, Chef Conner was busy at the stove prepping for our main course, lobster rolls!  He had fresh lobster rolls from a local bakery, and our job was to toast the edges.  He had heated up four pounds of butter to poach the lobster.  Yes, I said four pounds!  While he was working with the butter, we were busy prepping the ingredients for the dressing.  Chef Conner loves his Dukes mayonnaise, and I had to give him a hard time about that since I'm married to a Blue Plate kinda gal.  The two other ladies grew up on Miracle Whip!  The lobster tails were poached to perfection and then sent to the freezer for a little cool down, while the Chef did his magic to the dressing.  I did notice he has a tendency to add a pinch of cayenne to the ingredients!

The lobster rolls were plated, with a side of his old bay potato chips made earlier.  The best part of the meal, was the conversations between the four of us "guest chefs" and our interactions with our host, Chef Conner Wolf.  The meal was finished off with a serving of lemon ice cream and almond cookies.  I was lucky enough to blow out two candles that came with my serving.  No birthday wish here, my wish had already been granted with this wonderful evening!

toasted bun

heaven on a plate

food is love!

birthday boy, lemon ice cream and almond cookies

Kodiak moment by Chef Conner



Me and the Spousal Unit!

Wish was granted

I highly recommend a visit to Farmer's Table in Livingston cooking school.  Be sure to go online to check their calendar of events and get your tickets.  You'll be glad you did!







Saturday, July 15, 2017

Acura Roadside Assistance, part two

From part one, we had a "check engine light" episode, on our trip to Clearwater, Florida.  Luckily, we had booked a hotel room in Mobile, AL for the night that was directly across the interstate from the local Acura dealership.

Next morning, I called Enterprise, no pickup, since the rental is at the airport.  I ask if I can by chance pick up the vehicle early.  E guy says, "no sir, I'm short on vehicles."  I explain that its a truck, and what my circumstances were.  E guy said to come on!

In the process of completing the paperwork, I find that its a new Nissan Titan Quad cab pickup (online said Dodge quad 1500).  In the conversation, the E Guy says its gonna get interesting in a couple of hours.  Seems he only has 6 sedans on the lot, and 12 people coming to pick up reserved cars!  Only one of the customers was flying in, the other eleven were like me, walk up reservations!

In the airport parking lot, we swapped all our beach stuff and other stuff from the Acura MDX to the mighty big ass Titan Quad cab pickup.  We, (I), needed that truck to haul all our stuff and it was the only vehicle big enough for this Vaca man and his beaching gear!  Hertz had nothing!  Luckily, all the stuff from inside the car fit in the quad cab, and all the stuff from the basket hitch went into the truck bed.  Now, on to the Acura car dealership....

We get to the dealership, and wouldn't you know it, the lot is barricaded at all entrances.  You have got to be kidding me.......  Luckily, we had both sets of keys.  I took mine, walked to the service door, and found the drop box for early service.  The gate at the entrance to the dealership had a sign that stated that "the dealership is closed until July 5th, so that their employees could enjoy the July 4th holiday!"  It also included a telephone number that you could text a message, if you needed to contact the dealership during the holiday.  Wonderful!  The car won't even be looked at for four days!  We parked the car as close to the entrance gate as we could get, and left a note on the steerng wheel for the Dealership or the local Popo to see.   What else to do?????  Hopefully a responsible party would get to it before any criminal element......

With half the day gone, the second leg of our trip finally began.  We had booked a room in Gainesville for Sunday night months ago, since check in at the Clearwater Condo wasn't until Monday afternoon.  Three to four hours into our drive, the Acura dealership guy called to let us know that he had moved the car to the service lot of the dealership and they would look at it on Wednesday.

During our stay in Clearwater, we got daily phone calls from the Dealership.  Wednesday was spent trying to diagnose the problem, with no answer.  Thursday they finally hooked up to the computer systems in the car and confirmed that what we told them had indeed happened. (It was the same issue from September of last year, and happened outside Mobile!)  Instead of ordering a new computer module, they reinstalled the software, added some gas, then spent the rest of the day and Friday morning, putting some miles on it, in traffic similar to what we had experienced.

We decided to cut our vaca short and head back Friday afternoon, with an overnight stop in Tallahassee, FL.  The big ass mighty Titan quad cab truck was due back on Sunday anyway.  The Acura dealership confirmed that it would be ready for us to pick up on Saturday.  We made it to the dealership, picked up the MDX, dropped off the Titan (no refund for being 20 hours early) and hit the road for home, arriving without incident.

Yesterday, I called the Acura Roadside assistance number that the woman had transferred me to on Saturday night.  Three minutes of voice prompts and I finally get a feller on the line.  I stated that I wanted to file a claim for reimbursement for the car rental.  The plan says you are entitled to up to $300 per day for three days for reimbursement for car rentals, food, lodging, etc... but you must be at least 100 miles from home to qualify.  The Acura guy asked a bunch of questions, got all the particulars:  vehicle, VIN number, name, mileage, etc....  He then pointed out what the plan covered, and agreed that we did qualify.  He said he put all of my information in their system.  Cool.  Then.....

The Acura help guy tells me that I needed to call the original telephone number to file a claim.  I asked would they be able to see the information that he just put into their system????  He said no, different system.  I would have to go through all of this again!  You gotta be kidding me, 2017!!!  You just cannot make this stuff up!

I hang up with the Acura Guy, and I dial the other number.  Acura Gal answers.  Yep.  I gotta repeat myself all over again.  She asks what phone number was used to place the original road side assistance call.  I gave her the number, and she confirmed that the event had occurred.    She then tells me, "please hold, while I check with my supervisor to see if you have reached the right department for filing a claim."  What????  Really????  I'm glad I wasn't on the side of the road, that Saturday night hoping to get a yow truck!

The Acura Gal reconnected, and yes, I was with the right department.  I was instructed to MAIL all of my original receipts to an address in Massachusetts!  Can I not email it to you???  Nope, snail mail it is.  And of course, I don't have receipts for the food along the way since I paid cash, and I don't have hotel receipts since we used reward points!  Gonna be interesting to see what they do pay out of the "up to $300 per day for three days"......

I did find it interesting that none of the Acura Dealership paperwork mentioned much of anything that we described, including this being a "second occurrence".  Fingers crossed that this car doesn't get a third strike for a faulty computer module inside the transmission.  Otherwise, it will be another adventure fighting over a "lemon law" issue with those sales people that described this MDX as a luxury automobile with trouble free driving!



Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cocooning

Two days of our recent trip were spent in Orlando at Parc Soleil, a Hilton Grand Vacation Resort.  This was our rest and relax portion of our trip.

The resort has two pool areas, the central pool with the water slide and it's the center of all the activities.  The other pool it off to the side, is much smaller, and has one of those water powered lift chairs to get handicapped guests in and our of the pool.

When you walk up to the second pool, you instantly realize, it's the favorite for doing the alligator float and cocooning.

You must enter this pool like a boat leaving the harbor, make no ripple, leave no WAKE!  The water is only 4.5 feet at its deepest point.  It's helpful to have some type of flotation device so that you can participate in the alligator float.

The wait staff is at your becon call, as they circle this wet oasis every fifteen minutes to entice you into ordering the cold slushy drink of your choice.  Me being the old vaca pro, I brought my own frozen margaritas pool side!

With the pool being smaller, and everyone doing the same thing, you can't help but start up or join a conversation.  We share restaurant secrets like where not to go,  which one is the best ever, and tips like the Landry Select dining club,  where you get first priority seating, which is especially helpful.

Young people are welcome, but they must obey the rules of alligator floating and cocooning, or us old folks will make their visit a short one!

We met several new friends, like Rose & James, from Pennsylvania, our age, similar life styles and interests.  We are looking forward  to catching up with them on future stays at HGVC resorts.  We are meeting up with other vaca friends during our next Florida trip in August.

Eventually, you have been in the water so long that your hands and feet are totally wrinkled and it's time to dry out.  Once out of the pool and dried off, the July and August heat hits you and back in you go!

By now, you have guessed it, this is the life after your children have grown up and left the nest, and you don't handle the amusement parks like you did ten years ago.  Happy hunting for you favorite cocooning hole!



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Restaurant Curse

Several months ago, one of my Facebook buddies, Chris Kennedy, posted a rant about he and his wife trying to have a romantic dinner one night, only for the occasion to be interrupted by the sound of a baby screaming at the top of its lungs!  To add fuel to the fire it has occurred over and over again.  Chris lives over in the Atlanta area, so the odds of occurrences are much greater for him.

I got a good laugh at Chris' rant, thinking that doesn't happen to me very often.  Yeah right!  All of a sudden, these screaming babies are everywhere!  I look at the spousal unit, and give her that look if mine, and I calmly say, "its the Chris restaurant curse"!  Eventually the kid is either picked up, or fed the right combination of food items, but rarely do these parents pick the kid up and take them outside to calm them down!

Its bad enough that these babies are a disruption, But now I am noticing everything!  There is always that guy at the table next door that is significantly louder than his companions.  And this guy, happens to be an expert at everything discussed during their 1.5 hour meal!

Then there was the waitress at Cracker Barrel last night.  The restaurant had some specials, for a limited time.  They called two of them "camp fire" meals, chicken or beef, with veggies, wrapped up in foil and slow roasted.  I ordered the chicken one.  She comes back from the kitchen, "we're all out".  Ok, I'll have the beef.  She comes back from the kitchen, "we're all out of that too."  She then asks "what else would you like to try?"  I looked at her and noticed something was missing.  I replied "why don't we start with a menu????"  She gives me that look, huh??? Then she realizes she doesn't have that either! Eventually I order something that they do have, but during our meal, I'm over hearing the same conversation I had, and its happening to other diners with different waiters!

Today at the Shed Barbecue, the cashier asked for my name for the ticket.  I told her "Bill Bill" for first and last name.  Waitstaff calls out "Bill!"  I answer "here!"  She asks "what's your last name?"  I reply, "my name's Bill Bill!"  Gal looks at me, then she looks at the ticket, and says "oh, yeah!  Cool!"  Finally I won a round!  Maybe this restaurant curse is broken!  (fingers crossed!)